Quinta de Marim

Jo’s Monday walk : Fuseta to Olháo

Something to always bear in mind when walking around our salt marshes is that they are tidal.  In a spirit of adventure, just after Christmas, I set out to explore the stretch between Fuseta and Olháo, entirely overlooking this fact.  In my defense, I was following the Algarve Cycle Trail and hadn’t envisioned that crossing water would be an issue.  On a glorious, sunny morning, I caught the train to Fuseta A (there are 2 stations in this small village, and the other one isn’t Fuseta B!)  A right turn will take you past the former fishermen’s houses and onto the coastal path.

Out in the bay the former coastguard station looks on without comment.  It’s a calm and peaceful scene, many people having not yet returned from the  holiday.  Birds wander, pecking and poking in the shallows, completely undisturbed when the occasional cyclist passes by.  The railway line also follows the coast, with minimal impact.  The colours of the heather are a lovely contrast in this sometimes dowdy landscape.

As often happens, a signpost throws confusion into the calm, either direction appearing to lead to Olháo.  The longer of the two, though interesting, doubles back on itself, but not before I have spotted the nesting storks, a rather endearing frog and a hoopoe.

Now it may seem a little early, but the sun is very warm and a decision is needed.  The perfect place to make it presents itself, a small restaurant, ‘O Farol’.  Does anyone mind a cake stop?  His and hers, of course!  Mine is the almond tart.

Decision made, we head in the general direction of the coast, hoping to be able to continue around the bay to Praia dos Cavacos.  And as luck would have it, we’re able to tiptoe around the edge of the sand and reach a boardwalk that looks quite new.  The surrounding buildings are unconventional, and ornamented with some rather wonderful artwork.

We are never out of touch with the quiet salt pans, which breathe life into this landscape.  You may have thought it all going swimmingly (bad choice of words  🙂  ) but a slight hiccup is just around the corner.

The railway track, which has followed us so patiently, decides to leap a gully full of water.  We shake our heads.  It’s too big a leap for human legs.  A family of cyclists approach from the direction of Olháo.  When they passed this way earlier the tide was out.  Bravely they hoist their cycles and cross the precarious track.  The alternative for us is a very long walk, so we grimace and hasten across the gap.  My heart is thudding.  If a train should suddenly appear… but minutes later we are in the heart of the nature reserve known as Quinta de Marim.

The plan was to skirt this park, and stay close to the campsite at Olháo.  But it’s simply a relief to be across the water.

The tidal mill is a beautiful sight at high tide.  It has not been operational since 1970, but the equipment still looks ready for action. I clamber up to the roof and look out across the water, to the low-lying barrier island, Armona.

The sun is low in the sky as we finally reach Olháo.  The contemporary theatre, itself a converted mill, stands in sharp contrast to the crumbling facades of neighbouring buildings.  Oblivious, the birds cavort on a high wire above.  Soon all trace of Christmas will be gone.

For us, it’s time to catch a train home.  If you should happen to repeat this walk, be very aware of the tide times.  And meanwhile, many thanks for accompanying me on the adventure that is the new year.

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Not too many walks to read as you get back into a routine.  Join me any time here on Jo’s Monday walk.  The welcome is always the same.


Janet has enormous fun in a museum!

WNDRful walk

And we all know that Jackie never lets the side down :

Christmas Fare

No place like home, but Drake is happy to hang his hat in a number of places :

Not that boring

While Sandra takes me back to one of the most beautiful places I have ever been :

#Jerónimos Monastery – Lisbon, #Portugal

Irene shares the beauty of a beach in winter :

Winter Day on the Dunes

And Indra, the lush landscape of :

Ng Tung Chai Waterfalls-Hong Kong

In stark contrast, Karen takes us to Australia, where heat is a killer.  Do please donate something, if you can :

A parched walk in the Blue Mountains

Candy combines a history lesson with a great walk.  I had no idea!

The Roman Walls of Lugo

And Cathy takes us back to a very beautiful mosque :

Casablanca: Back to Hassan II, a walk along the Corniche, & Quartier des Habous 

Happy New Year to anyone I’ve missed.  Onwards and upwards!

Quinta de Marim

The tidal mill at Quinta de Marim

The tidal mill at Quinta de Marim

This is the perfect Algarve walk when it’s too nice to be indoors, but not warm enough to sit on a beach.  Doesn’t that boardwalk call to you?  It does to me.

Quinta de Marim is part of the Ria Formosa nature reserve.  A 3 km trail leads through the pines and around the salt marshes, taking in the lovely old tidal mill en route.  The main purpose of the reserve is conservation and education.  The best option is to buy a map for a couple of euros and go at your own pace, but a guided tour is also available for advanced bookings.

No putting out to sea in this, I don't think!

No putting out to sea in this, I don’t think!

In the distance you can see the island of Armona

In the distance you can see the island of Armona

The tidal mill is the highlight of the reserve

But for me, the tidal mill is the highlight of the reserve

It sits proudly on the water

It sits proudly on the water

Looking out to sea

Looking out to sea

The views from the roof are captivating

The views from the roof are captivating

Sky and sea become one

Sky and sea blend into one

In a bird watcher's paradise

In a bird watcher’s paradise

A place where the spirit soars

A place where the spirit soars

I had never come across the concept of a tidal mill before and so was pleased that, inside the mill, display boards explain how it works.

Light floods in, illuminating the mill wheels

Light floods in, illuminating the mill stones

The ebb and flow of tide is what makes the mill work

The ebb and flow of tide is what makes the mill work

I had never seen anything quite like it before

I had never seen anything quite like it before

In season I believe the mill operates a small cafe, but it was closed when I was there.  The rest of the reserve incorporates salinas (or salt pans), a traditional farmhouse, a bird hospital and several hides for birdwatching.  Traditionally Portuguese water poodles were kept here- a special breed with webbed toes, once used in the fishing process.  These days they are most often seen in public demonstrations.

A Portuguese water poodle in action

A Portuguese water poodle in action

The reserve is close to Olhao Camping, and is signed off the E125 just before you reach Olhao, if you’re approaching from the east.